A Rather Unique Spring

by Phil Caldwell

As I thought about a topic for this month’s Newsletter, I was determined to not write about COVID-19. After all, the press is so saturated with news about coronavirus many of us are getting a bit tired of hearing about it. I don’t mean in any way to belittle the severity of this terrible disease, and it is vital for the media to keep us updated, but depression can also become an issue if we don’t seek other forms of mental stimulation. Seems kind of weird how political a severe health issue can become, sometimes you wonder about what you hear, you eventually learn who to listen to. Our glasses have to remain half full, not half empty. Despite my attempt not to write about COVID-19, it has kind of drifted that way. We all have to remain optimistic!

Fortunately in New Hampshire and here in Maine, garden centers and landscape businesses have been declared “essential businesses” that can remain open. The tourist industry, Maine’s primary source of revenue, will get hammered this year. Restaurants and places of lodging have been closed down. Some restaurants have turned to some form of take-out or delivery services, but this still greatly reduces jobs and income. Seems only logical that the Green Industry won’t have a record year, due to the trickle down effect, but we’ll be a lot better off than many.

A couple of local garden centers, that also sell to landscapers, have developed interesting changes to their usual wholesale methods. Recently I received a rather lengthy e-mail that contained a complete list of available plants, sizes, prices, and many photos. The nursery stated that they are closed to foot traffic unless absolutely necessary, and if so, an appointment is required. If you miss your appointment time, a new one must be rescheduled. While maintaining “6-foot social distancing,” plants will only be tagged at this time and will later be pulled by the nursery for pick-up. Phone orders are preferred.

They went on, “Upon completion of pulling your order, the nursery will call you to notify you that your order is ready and you will be billed. When the order is ready and you go to the nursery  for pick-up, drive to the main parking lot and call the office from your truck and you will be directed to the loading area. Do Not Leave Your Truck! Large B&B plants or smaller plants on pallets will be put on your tailgate and the customer is responsible for actually loading into the truck or trailer. Any tailgates or sideboards must be removed by the customer. All tarps and tie-downs are the customer’s responsibility.”

I’m sure most nurseries will operate under similar policies.

Although this sounds like a bit of a nuisance, it only makes sense. When you think of how many customers a nursery worker comes in contact with during the busy spring season, it is very understandable. It’s the least we can do when you consider how many businesses have had to close due to being considered “Non-essential”! Please use common sense, we’re all in this together!

Enjoy Spring!

— Phil Caldwell is a past president of NHLA (1989) who now lives and works in Maine.    

If You Have a Garden and a Library

by Cris Blackstone, NHCLP

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”  – Marcus Tullius Cicero

For some serious gardening ideas, and some helpful landscape ideas using shrubs and hedges, all in one book as a rich compendium for “homeowners, landscapers and everyone in between” check out this April 2020 release of Eva Monheim’s book, Shrubs and Hedges: Discover, Grow and Care for the World’s Most Popular Plants. Published by Cool Springs Press, I can shorten this review by pointing out that Dr. Michael Dirr has offered great praise for the book in his review for Eva – that sums it up!

shrubs and hedges color web

You’ll appreciate the book more, maybe, if you learn more about Eva Monheim first. She’s a teacher at Longwood Gardens in their Professional Horticulture Program and at the Barnes Arboretum at St. Joseph’s University. She’s also a founder of Verdant Earth Educators, LLC. Verdant Earth offers on-site classes, online live classes and recorded classes, too. Eva Monheim writes this book, using her extensive experiences and qualifications as a certified arborist and master floral designer. She holds memberships and certifications from many Green Industry professional organizations. With experience as a guest speaker and workshop facilitator for many organizations in the Atlantic Seacoast area, Eva is also coming at this book with her own education from Penn State University, Arcadia University, and the University of Reading, England. It’s impressive that all but a handful of photographs in Shrubs and Hedges were taken by Eva! Her college degrees are in horticulture, art, and English literature. With this background, the book is content rich and you can almost categorize it as a hybrid between a coffee table book and a traditional text book.

Chapters in the book range from “Uses and Benefits of Shrubs,” “History of Shrubs,” and chapters on pruning and propagating shrubs. Each chapter is loaded with illustrations and photos to help accentuate the major points the text is making. Her charts and graphs about specific plant families (several pages on hydrangeas alone) augment the material in each chapter, so no matter what your learning style may be, or what your own experiences or education may be, there is a newness to the information or a great review of the information and it’s all in one easy-to-access place. This might be the type of book you’d keep on hand during your workday as a reference for helping crews understand a task, such as pruning a particularly problematic hedge in need of revitalization, or to find a chart that would help in advising clients about suitable plants to include in a landscape plan for helping pollinators.
Besides the text book quality to this book, there is a lot of information behind the scenes, too. Quick stories such as “Salt Tolerant Hedges and Shrubs for Low-Lying Areas” is one example of a quick departure in a chapter on hedges that Monheim chose to include, offering insight on something many of your clients will be facing sooner than later with rising ocean levels and marshes encroaching more properties.

Eva is truly a gifted teacher. She takes guesswork out of pruning, for example, and offers descriptions, photographs, and illustrations, to erase guesswork and ease worries about getting it right. With reasons behind ways we need to prune our shrubs and hedges, the information is offered in a way that is sensible, accessible, and makes it easy to recollect when you’re faced with a decorative hedge or an untamed hedge that could be a showcase stretch of plants.

Monheim has a natural way of expressing the ways we should be considering shrubs and hedges. Helping prevent erosion? A shrub could be the answer, and she puts a spotlight on different plants to solve that niche situation. Privacy from neighbors or street noises? Many shrubs have growth habits and forms that are great solutions to those situations. Want to do your part to attract nesting birds and be a friend to the wildlife in your area? Monheim has solutions to those requests you may be getting from your clients, too.

Consider buying this book, not only for a great resource about shrubs and hedges but for all the information the author included surrounding this vast topic. There’s a particularly interesting chapter on “How Shrubs are Named and How to Identify Them.” Here again, Eva Monheim has a relaxed, fluent writing style that makes the topic easy to read, understand, and best of all, gives you ways to remember it all and access it when you want to identify a plant for a client or find something sourced from a nursery or garden center.

To have all this varied and useful knowledge presented in one book is exceptional. As the subtitle says, “Discover, Grow and Care for the World’s Most Popular Plants.” You will quickly understand how this book is getting such great recognition when you look at it yourself. Highly recommended!

— Cris Blackstone, NHCLP, is a freelance garden and landscape writer, and member of the Garden Communicator’s Assoc. (GWA) She serves on Newmarket’s Conservation Commission and the NH DES Lamprey River Advisory Council.